Quick Trip Ideas Along Arizona’s West Coast

Let the Colorado River guide your vacation to the waterfronts of Yuma, Lake Havasu City, and the Grand Canyon, where sunshine and cool breezes await.

Whitewater rapids, awe-inspiring canyons and epic fishing in riverside forests are just a few of the pleasures along the Colorado River, which helped shape the Grand Canyon and now defines the border between Arizona and California—an area known as Arizona's West Coast.

With the Colorado River leading the way north from Yuma, you’ll encounter a world-famous oddity, national wildlife refuges renowned for birdwatching, haunted historical locations and a natural wonder perfect for rafting.

Start your West Coast road trip in Yuma

With a great mix of outdoor and water activities, Yuma is perfect for kicking off a summer road trip.

A true desert oasis, Yuma sits on the banks of the Colorado River, meaning there's just as much adventure on the water as on land. Popular activities along the river's long shoreline include fishing, tubing, speed boating and waterskiing. During the winter season, jet boat and sternwheeler trips are popular diversions.

Back on land, the Cibola and neighboring Imperial national wildlife refuges showcase the last vestiges of the so-called "American Nile." Cottonwood-willow forests, cattail wetlands and lagoons line the river, creating a haven for wildlife viewing. Bird watchers can spot great blue herons, blue-winged teals or snowy egrets. For those that like a little more dirt on their clothes, several trails offer hardcore single and double tracks for mountain bikers and ATV enthusiasts.

Yuma is also packed with heritage and culture, from petroglyphs and museums to the (reportedly haunted) historic prison. The Main Street of downtown is still the city's vibrant heart with shopping, dining and entertainment, so allow for time in the evenings to explore this historic town.

Next stop: Lake Havasu City and the London Bridge

Follow the river a few hours north to Lake Havasu City, where watery fun and entertainment thrive on the famous Lake Havasu.

There's an intriguing real-life sequel to the old nursery rhyme "London Bridge is Falling Down." After being plucked from the River Thames, the London Bridge was transported from England and reassembled over Lake Havasu. On either end of the bridge, English architecture, parks, food and shopping make the area ideal for breezy strolls, picnics or swimming.

The lake itself is flanked by Lake Havasu State Park and framed by rugged cliffs, sparkling blue-green water and azure skies. Water sports fans flock to the city and the Colorado River for jet skiing, waterskiing or a relaxing lake tour aboard a paddle-wheeler.

Off the lake, this adventure spot doesn't slow down—golfing, dining, hiking, biking and year-round fun reign supreme with a "play like you mean it" attitude. Lake Havasu City is truly a destination for all ages and interests.

End your trip with a Grand Canyon adventure

Another two hours north and you'll arrive at the western rim of the Grand Canyon, specifically Grand Canyon West, owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe. This area is home to the world-famous Skywalk and Grand Canyon Western Ranch, with shops, lodging and horseback rides, plus two ziplines that take you soaring above the canyon.

The truly adventurous can book a one- or two-day rafting trip on the Colorado River. Along with thrilling whitewater rapids, the trips come complete with hiking at Travertine Cavern Falls, local wildlife viewing, lunch along the banks of the river and an exciting helicopter ride from the river up to Grand Canyon West — talk about seeing the canyon from a new point of view!

Back at the ranch, sample Hualapai-inspired dishes like pan-seared quail with roasted squash and prickly pear gastrique; watch gorgeous traditional dances; or pick up a beautiful piece of Hualapai art to remember your trip.

Finally, no trip on Arizona's West Coast is complete without a stop at the Hoover Dam, an engineering feat completed in 1936 that has since become one of the country's most visited landmarks.

Now that you've got the basics to start your road trip, follow the river and discover what else you'll find along the wild waters of Arizona's West Coast.

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About the Author

Arizona Office of Tourism

These articles are brought to you by the staff of the Arizona Office of Tourism, and occasionally local tourism organizations around the state.


Cities & Regions

From the abundance of Saguaro cactuses and unique wildlife in the Sonoran Desert to the high country and forests of the White Mountains to the breathtaking Grand Canyon, Arizona’s regions are full of experiences that don’t disappoint.